The Oboe And The Steth – Playing In The NSW Drs Orchestra

Medic and NSW Drs Orchestra oboeist Dr Susan Allman
Medic and NSW Drs Orchestra oboist Dr Susan Allman

On March 19, The NSW Drs Orchestra will gather eighty medical professionals and students under its banner to perform a concert for the 9th consecutive year to fund its continuing  partnership with Sydney Eisteddfod in sponsoring the NSW Drs Orchestra Sydney Eisteddfod Instrumental Scholarship in 2017 and the medical charity Freedom Across Australia.

Dr Susan Allman plays the oboe in the NSW Doctors Orchestra, which will be presenting the concert From Russia with Love, featuring music by Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian and Elena Kats-Chernin. Dr Allman write about how she came to play the oboe, and her time with the NSW Doctors Orchestra.


“When I was at school I learned to play the recorder and loved it. But for some reason I didn’t touch another musical instrument again until I turned 42 – mind you I forced all my children to learn instruments.

Then, I decided to attend to my own deficiencies and learn to play another instrument. Picking what to play was a bit tricky and one might ask ‘Why the oboe?’.

The fingering was similar to the recorder and it suited my big lungs. It’s also one of the most difficult instruments in the orchestra so I figured I had the best chance of joining an adult orchestra if I played it.

My mother’s cousin is John Cran, the renowned Sydney Symphony Orchestra bassoonist, so there must be some genetics involved in my attraction to the double reed.

There are no beginner classical orchestras for adults so after horrifying the Strathfield Orchestra with my decision to join (which they quickly rectified by firing me!), I went on to join the Beecroft Orchestra – by then I was getting better and they kept me. I adore my oboe and I will be forever grateful to them for their initial tolerance.

I joined the NSW Doctors Orchestra in 2008 and have played with them ever since. The orchestra was formed by Dr Cathy Fraser, whose amazing energy and drive continues to guide us towards bigger and better things.

Dr David Banney, the Conductor, has been loyal to us for many years and combines a perfect balance of perfectionism and tolerance towards the amateur players.

Doctors come from all over the state to play and support our chosen medical charity and the NSW Drs Orchestra Sydney Eisteddfod Instrumental Scholarship for young musicians aged 16 to 25 years. Most of us are amateurs uniting through our love of music and the discipline that it involves.

Quite a few of us have participated in the Sydney Eisteddfod in our younger years so it’s very special to get together each year and help one young instrumentalist achieve his or her dream of becoming a professional player.

And this year we’re doing so by playing some wonderful classical Russian numbers, so it’s a win-win for everyone!”

Dr Susan Allman

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